Jewelry photography is notoriously tough, whether it’s diamond rings or gemstone necklaces, but there are a few ways you can try that can make the process much simpler.
The props, studio lighting, equipment & post-production techniques you need to know
When it comes to shooting watches, rings, and necklaces, each has its own set of obstacles. Their smooth, glossy surfaces generate chaotic reflections, and their size and high magnification requirements make achieving proper depth of field extremely challenging. I will show you step-by-step shoots for three distinct pieces of jewelry in our series of jewelry photography lessons, but I’ve summed up some key jewelry photography principles here so you can try them out for yourself.
Backgrounds for jewelry photography
Before you start thinking about your lens or lighting, you need to figure out what background you’ll be shooting on. Your background is a vital component of the photo, so make sure you choose the proper one. Consider color, texture, and form, as well as how they will interact with your image’s aesthetic.
I photographed a blue gemstone necklace surrounded by diamonds for the first lesson in our jewelry series. I knew I wanted to use contrasting textures, so I went with smooth acrylic tiles and a textured piece of slate.
The second necklace I photographed was flat polished silver with two diamonds and was significantly less textured. I used a lot less texture in this photo. I constructed a series of matte black tubes that I positioned in a tight arrangement for the necklace to rest on since I thought they went better with the necklace’s larger metal tones.
I aimed for a cleaner, simpler approach for the rings shot, photographing the two rings together on a plain white background.
The next step was to make sure the items were clean once I’d agreed on the arrangement of each image. This is an important element of the preparation process that is easy to overlook, but it will save you a lot of time in the post-production phase.
I began experimenting with lighting only after I was satisfied with the backdrop selection and placing of each photo. It’s pointless to concentrate on your lighting unless you’re certain of your composition since even the tiniest tweak will result in a big shift in your lighting.
The photographic process
I used my Hasselblad H6 with a 100mm lens (equal to roughly 67mm in 35mm full frame) for all three jewelry shots. I utilized extension tubes instead of a macro lens. These are a less expensive option that nevertheless provides enough magnification.
My camera was mounted on a Manfrotto Super Salon 280 Camera Stand, but any tripod will suffice. The most important thing is to maintain your camera in a constant position. This will avoid camera shake, maintain proper lighting, and maintain everything in alignment if you need to focus stack your shots.
Jewelry photography lighting setups for necklaces
The lighting settings for the two necklace photos were identical, utilizing a mixture of light sources. A bare bulb light was directed forward through a piece of white acrylic put behind the object for both photographs. The light was diffused by the acrylic, which created a gentle, gradient lighting that served as my main fill light.
For each session, I experimented with light placement, seeing what effect it had whether I moved the light further or closer away, left or right, or up and down. The initial light alone produced fantastic results in both images! But I wanted to go a step further, and that meant I needed extra lights to truly bring out the brilliance in the jewels in each.
I ended up utilizing three lights for the gemstone necklace. My second light was a little ball of light that I utilized to provide specularity and so glitter to the scene. I then added a picolite with a projection attachment shining directly on the blue gemstone to bring out additional color, although a highly precise snoot may have accomplished a similar outcome.
The diamond necklace had considerably wider metal tones and clean, gleaming surfaces, making it harder to light. One of the most effective methods is to create a type of ‘light tent,’ which I achieved by using reflector cards.
I generated a smooth gradient light by shining a light through the acrylic sheet, like I did in the previous photo, before placing white panels in front and above to create a complete wraparound of light and give some glitter to the diamonds in the front.
Jewelry photography lighting setups for rings
Although the lighting setup for ring photography seems to be more challenging, the secret to photographing rings well is to minimize reflections. Rings reflect everything, including your base surface, background, and even you, thanks to their curved, gleaming surfaces.
To tackle this difficulty, I utilized a similar method to the diamond necklace: I made a conical-shaped light tent that covered the rings while still allowing light to pass through.
As with the necklaces, my main light was a bare bulb point light source. I then put another to provide shine to the diamond’s face, one to light the bands’ metal work, and one to illuminate the diamonds on the band.
How to retouch jewelry photographs
The focus stack on the image of the rings necessitated the greatest Photoshop effort. Using Photoshop to focus stack a sequence of photographs is simple; the program takes care of the majority of the work. To begin, launch Photoshop and open the files. Choose ‘Scripts’ and ‘Load Files into Stack’ from the ‘File’ menu. Choose ‘Add Open Files’ and ‘Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images’ from the dialog box that appears. It’s important to note that this does not establish the focus stack; rather, it aligns the opened pictures and ensures that they all have the same magnification.
Pick all of your layers, then go to the ‘Edit’ tab, select ‘Auto Blend Layers,’ and check ‘Stack Images’ and ‘Seamless Tones and Colors.’ This will generate masks for each layer, determining which areas of each image are in focus and ensuring that your whole image is crisp.
After that, you may go ahead and finish any additional post-production work you had planned.